Engaging staff to improve quality and safety in an austere medical environment: A case-control study in two Sierra Leonean hospitals

Michael A. Rosen, Adaora M. Chima, John B. Sampson, Eric V. Jackson, Rahul Koka, Megan K. Marx, Thaim B. Kamara, Onyebuchi U. Ogbuagu, Benjamin H. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quality problem or issue: Inadequate observance of basic processes in patient care such as patient monitoring and documentation practices are potential impediments to the timely diagnoses and management of patients. These gaps exist in low resource settings such as Sierra Leone and can be attributed to a myriad of factors such as workforce and technology deficiencies. Initial assessment: In the study site, only 12.4% of four critical vital signs were documented in the pre-intervention period. Choice of solution: Implement a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) to improve documentation of four patient vital signs: temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate. Implementation: FMEA was implemented among a subpopulation of health workers who are involved in monitoring and documenting patient vital signs. Pre- and post-FMEA monitoring and documentation practice were compared with a control site. Evaluation: Participants identified a four-step process to monitoring and documenting vital signs, three categories of failure modes and four potential solutions. Based on 2100 patient days of documentation compliance data from 147 patients between July and November 2012, staff members at the study site were 1.79 times more likely to document all four patient vital signs in the postimplementation period (95% CI [1.35, 2.38]). Lessons learned: FMEA is a feasible and effective strategy for improving quality and safety in an austere medical environment. Documentation compliance improved at the intervention facility. To evaluate the scalability and sustainability of this approach, programs targeting the development of these types of process improvement skills in local staff should be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-327
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Appropriate health care
  • Developing countries
  • Experimental research
  • General methodology
  • Health-care system
  • Hospital care
  • Human factors
  • Organization science
  • Patient safety
  • Practice variations
  • Qualitative methods
  • Quality improvement
  • Quality management
  • Setting of care
  • Specific populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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